03 July 2017 @ 11:45 am
yesterday i took the JLPT (N2 level). my advice / experience:

• study so that you could clearly pass N1 if you're taking N2. in particular, make sure you can understand formal nonfiction (newspaper articles, modern-history texts, business-anything) in both spoken and written form EASILY. you want to be at the point where you can VERY EASILY read all kinds of NONFICTION, adult books in japanese. you should use an app like "mazii dict" (dictionary where you can easily read news blurbs inside it) or "mondo" (purely intended for reading news) to read some news articles every day.

• instead of (panicking and) re-reading the long reading pieces, read and answer each question SLOWLY. once slowly saves time and comprehension, versus thrice fast.

• work on memorization techniques for when listening to conversations. just youtube "memory champion" etc and you'll see what i mean. you can reread text, you can't replay audio.

• if watching anime to learn, i'd say watch it once with japanese subs (looking everything up) and then once without subs. i didn't realize how much i was still relying on subs for comprehension of high-level stuff until the long listening came. (vlogs, "let's learn japanese grammar!" and other everyday stuff i'm understanding just fine without subs).

• it's very important to remember, on the JLPT there's basically NO CONTEXT for anything. obviously this makes things a lot harder than normal reading/listening.

by the time i took it, i'd studied all the N2 and half the N1 grammar on this site:

all the N2 and some hundreds of the N1 vocabulary/kanji on this site:

i had had 3 months to prepare (i didn't know the JLPT was even held in Sweden before then). i had just finished my 3rd semester of Japanese in uni, finished the "Tobira" textbook, watched (Japanese dub, Japanese subs on animelon) around 30 eps of Hunter x Hunter, 24 of Parasyte, 10 of Chobits, 10 of Baccano, 8 of Shiki and a few random episodes from random series; so about 27 hours of japanese-subbed anime. from time to time i watched random vlogs/instructional videos on youtube, bits of movies and dramas, played videogames and listened to radio. no attempts to watch the news or documentaries.

i'd read maybe 15 short stories for adults, 2 for kids, 10-15 manga volumes (gegege, rantarou, doraemon, maruko-chan, inuyasha, hunter x hunter, parasyte, stuff by harada, doujinshi and other things chosen completely at random), visited a Japanese chatroom (for an MMO) every day and regularly glanced at various kinds of tweets (political, shop announcements, anime publication announcements, everyday chatting). i had made no real attempts to read newspapers or japanese websites (i did read some but it was like five times throughout those 3 months of study).

i took quite a few mock JLPT tests via apps and passed them all, also passed the official practice test on the JLPT website, generally getting around 50% in all categories except vocabulary / kanji which was 70%+. only now do i realize, that percentage is literally a bit less than how much you're going to understand when you go to read the real test. if you pass with 50% it means you're not going to know 60% of the words used in the test, whether it's long reading or audio or what.

the test is broken into sections: 1. single-word reading, 2. single-sentence reading, 3. paragraph reading, 4. page reading, 5. single-sentence audio, 6. paragraph-audio, 7. page-worth of audio, and there was one "chart/poster-reading" question ("can you read the fine details about ex. opening hours").

within those, there was only around 3 questions to do with keigo/polite language (1 of these was so basic it was laughable, geared towards people who've never seen something like "お 願い します"), 15 or so with casual language (mostly audio ones - and still not as casual as the manga i read), 0 with dialects or kid-speech etc, 2 to do with telling apart synonyms or verb pairs (開く vs 開ける etc), 1 to do with conjugation (stuff like "can you say 欲しましてです or not"), maybe 5 to do with choosing the right particle or kanji. the whole test was really entirely dependant upon you knowing TONS AND TONS of vocabulary.

0 things to do with fiction-like situations. the whole test was very much focused on "you are an adult living in japan as a businessperson, only hearing standard ます and maybe literary である, readings business Emails, signing up for apartments etc". even the casual-language audio questions were like, you're listening to Keiko's life problems or someone's asking about the due-date for a project at work. DEAD BORING, not what they teach in my class and not what i'm personally seeing/hearing when i use japanese.

as for my test experience:

i'm almost blind so i had "special testing conditions", meaning i was in a separate room from everyone else, i got enlarged paper, i got to write my answers directly on the test paper instead of filling in circles (saved a ton of time - i heavily recommend it if you're in my situation), and i could use a magnifying glass. first off, the enlarged paper was HUGE, it was the size of a newspaper and its height covered almost the whole height of the desk, so i couldn't actually read the text at the top of the page without folding/bending the test booklet (which made noise). i had to constantly move not only the paper but also myself for every question in order to read.

my eyes died 1/3rd of the way through and so suddenly i felt like i couldn't even read the QUESTIONS anymore, let alone the long reading sections, nor could i focus on the audio when it came time for that. there were tons of words i didn't know, even in the questions, and they were usually key words (like the whole reading is about "x" and i don't know what that x is) which made me lose focus really fast once it came to the long reading/audio. if i actually knew all the words my focus snapped right back, but those times were rare.

during the audio part, the "memo" section was actually useless - theoretically you could jot down notes but if you're writing then you're not concentrating on the listening / you can't hear the audio well over your pencil scratching. the audio was at a normal speed for native speakers, as far as i remember, which surprized me because a lot of the practice audio seemed slower. i got pretty panicked when it came time for the long questions where they only said what they were looking for AFTERWARDS, because by that time i couldn't remember anything from the dialogues and there's not exactly enough time to sit and reflect on all the bits you do remember. likewise if i couldn't understand some of the words in the questions for the audio pieces i was thrown into a panic.

there were 2 parts in the listening section where instead of having answers to choose from ("pick 1-4") written in the test booklet like normal, no numbers were listed and i had to write "1. 3; 2. 1" etc as "question 1, answer 3…" directly onto the paper. i assume this was fine for those of you who are filling in bubbles on the answer sheet, but i had NO IDEA how many questions were part of this category and thus no idea when to move on to the next question that actually had answers written, and for all those questions i kept panicking because of it. like, is "#4" actually "question 4"? no, no it wasn't. remember, i couldn't read the text at the top of the page when i was writing in the middle of the page either so i couldn't just glance up and read the instructions again.

so i got pretty panicked and pre-occupied and spaced out for various reasons, none of which were actually test anxiety. also since i was taking it in a university building, i could hear the muffled audio from the other rooms when i was taking mine and it was pretty distracting. if they had made my audio any louder to drown it out, it would've hurt my ears.

i felt that basically all the vocabulary i had studied was useless. thanks to anime and games i had even been learning random extra high-level words like "heart attack", "epidemic", "unqualified", lots of random keigo etc. and out of all those the only thing that actually was useful was the word "robbed" and still there were tons of words i didn't know. this felt pretty unfair, especially considering during the break time i picked up japanese linguistics research paper (one of the university teachers had written it) and read a little, and there felt like hardly any words i didn't know and all the grammar was familiar stuff i'd even been learning in class; in short my comprehension of that linguistics paper was the same as when picking up any random novel for adults, yet my JLPT comprehension was way lower.

i felt like i had nowhere near enough preparation in listening and vocabulary, and i vastly overestimated my ability to read on PAPER for long amounts of time (since oh, around 10 years ago i've basically only ever been reading digitally).

on top of all that, i had slept horribly the few days before the test (ate something bad, and travelled to the test-town the day before and slept at a relative's place - i always sleep badly at other people's houses) but i'm not sure a full night's rest would've really helped me much anyway.

since i took the test july 2nd the test results are available online in august i think, then we get paper results mailed to us in october or so. there's still a chance i passed, since a passing score is so low and it's all multiple-choice you could practically guess your way there. so i'm hoping for that.
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sunlit_stone[personal profile] sunlit_stone on July 3rd, 2017 09:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, that really sucks. I'm sorry. I hope you passed.

If you explain about your eyes and so forth, do you think they'd let you retake it on a screen? Or next time you take it, anyway, can you take it on the screen? I know our school gets my sister's books specially as ebooks, so she can use text-to-voice, so it might be possible.

I hope things work out. & that you get some good sleep.
lusentoj[personal profile] lusentoj on July 4th, 2017 02:07 am (UTC)
nope no screen, it's a huge test so they're veeery strict about how it's done and are super careful about potential cheating and all that.

thanks!! i hope they work out too... i'm gonna go sleep now ;D
sunlit_stone[personal profile] sunlit_stone on July 4th, 2017 11:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, man, that's just... You think they coukd work something out with the computer and no internet, or giving it to you in short sections and letting you have breaks in between, or /something/.

Well, I hope you had a nice sleep, anyway.
lusentoj: 布団[personal profile] lusentoj on July 5th, 2017 11:34 am (UTC)
i've seen a ton of other people complaining about them not using computers too, the thing is ignoring that digital text is easier to read and can be enlarged etc, if they did it via computers you could actually get instant feedback on your results instead of waiting weeks or months like it is now. there's no writing or speaking portion to the test in the first place so it really doesn't make any sense that it's not digital!
sunlit_stone[personal profile] sunlit_stone on July 6th, 2017 03:07 am (UTC)
I mean, really, you'd think!
lusentoj[personal profile] lusentoj on July 4th, 2017 07:43 pm (UTC)
hey i found some katakana for you to try reading LOL

sunlit_stone: cool[personal profile] sunlit_stone on July 4th, 2017 11:09 pm (UTC)
Ahhh! I only just started on katakana. Well, hmm, let's see...

Su ? I ? ? ? N Ki ? ? Su ? ? ? 8 ? ? ? ? N ? Yo

That's not very good! But I guess it's better than nothing :)
lusentoj: 泣く[personal profile] lusentoj on July 5th, 2017 11:40 am (UTC)
good job!! ー draws out the vowel of the previous letter. in kanji though, ー means "one". ハ "ha/fa" does usually look exactly like 八 which is the kanji for 8, but in certain fonts 八 has a sort of mark at the top so you can distinguish between them.

ス su マ ma イ i ル ru = smile
ジ j(i) ャ ya ン n キ ki ー i = junkie(the シ is a typo in the subs)
ミ mi ス su タ ta ー a = mister
ハ ha ッ (h) ピ pi ー i = happy
エ e ン n ド do = end (they say "happy end" instead of "a happy ending")
sunlit_stone: cool[personal profile] sunlit_stone on July 6th, 2017 03:17 am (UTC)
Hahah oh my god! I didn't see that one coming.

I thought that ー might mean 1, it does in Chinese, but then I thought a single horizontal stroke is just such an obvious form it might be coincidence, you know? And then it seemed weird that it would be scattered around like that if it did mean 1.

Oh, huh--in Mandarin, 八 is pronounced bā! So it's kind of similar. I wonder how long they've each been pronounced that way?

(So far Duolingo's pretty much only been feeding me characters I already know the meaning of from Chinese--it's going to get a lot harder once I start running into new ones!)
lusentoj[personal profile] lusentoj on July 6th, 2017 03:49 am (UTC)
They have other kanji for the simple-looking numbers that they use on banknotes and when writing cheques and stuff (so a thief can't just ex. add another stroke and turn "one" into "ten"): 壱 1, 弐 2, 参 3, 拾 10. These also show up in pre-WWII books and stuff sometimes but in general you almost never see them so they're not worth memorizing until you actually come across them.

Japanese has taken 99% of its modern counting system directly from Chinese, both the method and pronunciation. But the Japanese names still show up in some words or when paired with certain words. So 百 100 is normally pronounced ひゃく (Chinese) but in names or certain compound words it's もも (the original Japanese word for 100). When counting people, you say ひとり "one person; alone", ふたり "two people; a duo, couple" and that ひと, ふた are the original Japanese words for "one, two" (kanji is 一人 one person, alone physically, ex. you're the only one standing in the room; 独り alone mentally, ex. you're the only one angry in the room; 二人 two people). But with almost everything else you're going to be saying the Chinese "one, two".

A lot of people use a book (ignore the book, there's a fan-made website that's way better) called "Read the Kanji" to learn new kanji, there's the same for Chinese characters. Personally I use it to learn how to WRITE kanji but to learn how to READ kanji I just learn them via word replacement, reading manga and watching anime. But once you're given a new kanji you don't know, you can try looking it up on that fan-website to see people's memory aids for remembering it.
sunlit_stone[personal profile] sunlit_stone on July 7th, 2017 03:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, nice, thanks!
lusentoj[personal profile] lusentoj on July 5th, 2017 05:17 pm (UTC)
...hey, i just tried animelon on my smartphone and it works! so it should work on your phone/tablet too. the smartphone's a little small so the meanings in the pop-up window get cut off a bit but since they're usually just repeating themselves anyway it doesn't matter.